Friday, December 15, 2006

Welcome back, my friends

Just putting a few pieces together. Don't mind me.

TPM Muckraker:

Nir Rosen of the new blog Iraqslogger reports, calling it a "mysterious psychological operations campaign," that Baghdad residents have reported "receiving phone calls that the caller ID shows to be originating from outside Iraq." What follows is a "recorded message from an anonymous man speaking formal Arabic" who goes on to condemn the Mahdi Army, the Shiite militia headed by the powerful cleric Muqtada al Sadr that's been a continual thorn in the U.S.'s side.
Froomkin notes an increase in troops in Iraq is being talked about seriously, although the problems with that are manifold, viz:

But consider this: "The idea is . . . running into strong opposition in Baghdad. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has flatly told Gen. George Casey, the top American military commander in Iraq, that he doesn't want more U.S. personnel deployed to the country, according to U.S. military officials. The U.S. sent thousands of additional combat personnel to Baghdad earlier this year in an attempt to quell the daily violence there, but American officials say Mr. Maliki has made clear that he wants to see those forces -- except for U.S. trainers and advisers -- moved out of the city.

"Senior U.S. commanders on the ground in Iraq, meanwhile, say they aren't sure additional forces are needed in Iraq."
Of course, all of this would be contrary to what the President has told us he would do, which is to listen to his commanders. But then listening is so pre-11/7:

Bush's former chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., who was by Bush's side as he formulated many of his key decisions on the war, said Bush hears many opinions and thus believes that 'his knowledge is more complete than anyone who is advising him.'"
(This one courtesy of Holden.)

Not to mention, as Froomkin notes, the sovereign in the US isn't too wild about the idea:

And, of course: "Deploying more U.S. forces to Iraq would be deeply unpopular in the U.S., where polls show that an increasing majority believes the U.S. is losing in Iraq, disapproves of the administration's handling of the war and wants to see a fixed timetable for a military withdrawal."
Even the number to be called up is fluid just now:

Warren P. Strobel and Jonathan S. Landay write for McClatchy Newspapers that Bush appears likely to call for as many as 40,000 more troops.
And, lest everything go down the memory hole:

They offer a little context: "Only a year ago, on Nov. 30, 2005, Bush, under pressure to show progress, unveiled a ' National Strategy for Victory in Iraq.' Then, as now, he pledged to focus on training Iraq's security forces.
Okay, so why will an increase in troops work? One answer is: more cowbell.

U.S. News reports: "White House insiders tell the US News Political Bulletin that there are more divisions within the administration than Bush's spokesmen have admitted, and that factionalism has led to the postponement of Bush's decisions and speech on Iraq. . . .

"Vice President Dick Cheney wants to hew as closely as possible to the original goal of victory by creating a government in Baghdad that can, as Bush says, 'sustain, govern, and defend itself.' Cheney is believed to be leaning toward sending a 'surge' of additional U.S. troops to Iraq, perhaps 30,000, to put down sectarian violence. Military leaders, however, are against such a move because they think it will increase the Iraqis' dependency on the United States."
But I smell a rat (again, via Froomkin, the clearing house for this kind of stuff):

Charles Krauthammer, who is often prescient about what the White House is planning, writes in his Washington Post opinion column: "As a result of the Iraq Study Group, President Bush has been given one last chance to alter course on Iraq. This did not, however, come about the way James Baker intended. It came about because the long-anticipated report turned out to be, as is widely agreed, a farce."

Bush, Krauthammer writes, "must do two things. First, as I've been agitating for, establish a new governing coalition in Baghdad that excludes Moqtada al-Sadr, a cancer that undermines the ability of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his government to work with us. It is encouraging that Bush has already begun such a maneuver by meeting with rival Shiite and Sunni parliamentary leaders. If we help produce a cross-sectarian government that would be an ally rather than a paralyzed semi-adversary of coalition forces, we should then undertake part two: 'Double down' our military effort. This means a surge in American troops with a specific mission: to secure Baghdad and (with the support of the Baghdad government -- a sine qua non) suppress Sadr's Mahdi Army.

"It is our last chance for success. Bush can thank the Iraq Study Group and its instant irrelevance for making it possible."
Which brings us back to where this started: robocalls to Iraq. If Krauthammer is prescient about what the White House is planning, it's not because he has a sixth sense for these things. Clearly the White House thinks power will finally prevail (how is another question, in't it?). And the bonus is, they can blame the Democrats for not trying to use more troops to quell the violence. After all, if a little force is good, even more force is better.

The only real hope the Democrats have is to follow Rep. Kucinich's lead, and cut off funding. This, however, they will not do. So how much more effective will doing nothing be than sending in even more troops? Especially if you can claim more troops would solve the problem? Not that anyone is buying that idea, but we're already well beyond any solution to the problem of Iraq. Everybody except the President, apparently, understands this, but his lack of understanding on that point is irrelevant right now. There is one thing he clearly understands, which is actually more important: and that is power.

I watched the movie "Elizabeth" again yesterday, the Cate Blanchett movie about Henry VIII's daughter. It may be no more historical than the average Hollywood costume drama, I simply don't know. But it is fascinating for how much intrigue swirls around the throne, which, of course, is where the power is. It's all about power, and it explains the present situation perfectly. Elizabeth ascends to the throne upon the death of her half-sister Mary, and her authority is immediately tested. It takes her some time to realize that innocence is not a virtue in a leader, and the people around you aren't your friends. But it also takes her some time to realize how much power simply cascades off of her position, to be wielded by people around her; and simultaneously, how much power there is in other centers, to be wielded against her.

Of course, in the movie, all those against her end up with their heads on pikes at the end, and the credits not that she reigned another 40 years after the events of the movie. Power serves no one, but seduces many. It is the ultimate prostitute, but it never becomes anyone's mistress.

This is the still unlearned lesson of Iraq. And it is precisely why there is so much talk about making 20,000, 30,000, even 40 or 50 thousand, troops appear out of thin air and descend with vengeance (at last) and victory (to be sure!) upon Iraq. Not because "It is the act of a desperate president hoping for one last way to salvage his war and prove that he was right, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary" (Froomkin), but because it is also the interregnum between the fall of the old power (the 109th Congress) and the rise of the new Congress (the 110th). In that interregnum, all manner of strange things appear. Is the old dying? Is the new struggling to be born? Frankly, I don't think so. But power abhors a vacuum, and it is ready for a new suitor. Who will prove worthy of its hand, is the question being played out just now.

But we, the people, are just the sovereign, the figurehead monarch. This fight is between the real powers: those who actually control the levers of government, and who obviously pay little attention to us at all. For which, ultimately, we have only ourselves to blame. Still, it's an interesting show; and it's one that never ends.

Come inside, come inside.

TAKE heed, watch; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like someone going on a journey, who leaving home and putting the servants in charge of their work, commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Watch therefore-for you do not know when the lord of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning-lest the lord come suddlenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Watch.
Mark 13:33-37

Bit of a P.S.: Where we are now:

Warning that the active-duty Army "will break" under the strain of today's war-zone rotations, the nation's top Army general yesterday called for expanding the force by 7,000 or more soldiers a year and lifting Pentagon restrictions on involuntary call-ups of Army National Guard and Army Reserve troops.

Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army's chief of staff, issued his most dire assessment yet of the toll of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on the nation's main ground force. At one point, he banged his hand on a House committee-room table, saying the continuation of today's Pentagon policies is "not right."
There can be no doubt everyone calling for more troops is quite serious.


And then I wake up this morning to find there is a counter-strategy in place, and it is attacking on all fronts:

Incoming Democratic committee chairmen say they will hold a series of hearings and investigations early next year to build the case for their call for a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and for possible action against defense contractors found to have wasted billions in federal funds.

The emerging plans to grill administration officials on the conduct of the war are part of a pledge for more aggressive congressional oversight on issues such as prewar intelligence, prisoner treatment at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, and the government's use of warrantless wiretaps.
And next, behind the glass, is a real blade of grass; be careful as you pass, move along, move along.

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